For those with limited mobility, participating in activities with friends can be challenging.
Ethan Pyles, 21, of St. Lawrence knows those challenges firsthand.
Pyles was diagnosed at age 6 with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
The progressive neuromuscular disorder robbed him of mobility. He uses a motorized wheelchair to get around, but his physical limitations can be socially isolating.
“I can’t really get out a lot because of being in a wheelchair,” he said.
Finding accessible places to meet and socialize with friends is not easy, he said.
That’s why Pyles is eagerly anticipating the completion of Abilities in Motion’s newly renovated facility at 755 Hiesters Lane.
AIM’s vision for the former retail space includes a 2,400-square-foot area designed to empower individuals with disabilities to explore technology, as well as a cafe where they can socialize and build employment skills.
“It will be good to have a place like this where we can chill and relate to each other and just get to hang out and socialize with friends,” Pyles said after a ribbon cutting ceremony at AIM’s new location.
The event last week celebrated the nonprofit’s gradual move from its former home at 210 N. Fifth St. into larger quarters that will enable it to expand services in new and innovative ways.
The fully accessible building features greater space for onsite programming, future expansion and community partnerships, AIM Executive Director Stephanie Quigley said.
“We’ve been planning for this for almost two decades,” she said. “We’ve been very lucky in having the inspiration and the drive to continue on seeing this vision grow.”
The organization spent years searching for a bigger, more accessible building with ample parking within the city limits and found it in a former retail outlet on Hiesters Lane.
AIM’s threefold mission is to eliminate the stereotypes, physical barriers and outdated attitudes that prevent inclusion for people with disabilities; to provide individuals of any ability the resources and support to live on their own terms; and to champion laws and movements that help preserve the rights and privileges of people with disabilities.
About 30 staff members work to promote independence and self-reliance for people with disabilities through community programs, education, advocacy and more.
Much of the focus is on independent living and support programs that help people with disabilities live in their own homes.
AIM also provides an opportunity for those with disabilities to advocate, educate, network and socialize.
The organization produces the podcast Disability Talks, which features no-nonsense talk from people with disabilities living independently in greater Reading.
The new building enables AIM to provide onsite services in a different way and with a focus on technology, Quigley said.
The cafe, which will be staffed by people with disabilities, will provide job training for those interested interest in food service.
“They can come here and learn skills that they would not otherwise get the opportunity to learn,” she said.
The space next to the cafe is planned as a large technology room where people can hone their computer skills, said Edward Granger, independent living services program director.
There also will be a recreational component.
“We’re planning on doing some eSports (competition using video games) and some other exciting tech things in there,” Granger said.
“It’s a good outlet to have when you are disabled,” said Pyles, who has been playing video games since he was a boy.
But the games are secondary to the social aspects of the hobby, he said.
“It’s not just the gaming part,” he said. “It is being able to socialize while you’re playing and just getting to meet new friends and welcoming them.”
Due to his experience and enthusiasm, Pyles was named community consultant for eSports development. He will help design the layout of the room and select the needed equipment.
Most gamers prefer the superior graphics provided by computer systems, he said. But the high cost of the faster processors and latest sound and video cards can put the technology out of reach, particularly for those with disabilities who are on fixed incomes.
They will be able to use the tech room and play on the state-of-the-art systems free of charge, he said.
“I’m envisioning a lot of my friends and I playing together here,” Pyles said. “I’m already putting together a good team.”
Source: Berkshire mont